The Return of the Cursed Gift chap 24
Apologies for taking so long. This is the last chapter.
Cherish it. Cherish it like a baby Riolu that's too adorable for this world.
Disclaimer: I do not own Pokemon. If I did, Ash would actually be competent. And Pokemon Go would be so much more awesome. The servers would crash less and I would have 100 Riolu already. (Yes, I know only Gen I is out right now...I would cheat.)
Uncle Shade asked us some questions before tasking the two soldiers that had stayed behind with bringing us to the surface. He followed the way that the troops under his command had gone, speaking to them through a radio as he went. He waved farewell to us before moving around the corner. I let Lucy know that we had found my parents and that we were all about to be brought out.
She said that she would meet up with us outside and left the radio where it sat. It's not like she had an easy way of toting it around. I went ahead and dropped the one that I had, not seeing any use in keeping it with me.
The two that Uncle Shade had ordered to get us to safety folded out a large, very thin, sheet of metal and placed it on the ground in the hallway. One groaning Team Phoenix member had to be dragged out of the way and I carefully avoided meeting Andrea's eyes. She was still holding onto that gun and I'm pretty sure her eyes were plastered a little too heavily on the blood-trail left behind by the member.
"Please get on and make sure that everyone stays inside of the square. You don't want to know what happens otherwise," the woman advised. Everyone huddled a little closer before the one that was off of the square hit a button on a remote.
The sensation of teleportation almost made me have a panic attack before I remembered that I didn't need to avoid it, nor flying, any longer. I was finally reunited with my family and those precautions were no longer necessary.
We appeared in a wide-open area with several of the same sheets of metal scattered about. Tents were set up around the area, some with doctors waiting inside and others with technicians manning their own devices.
"This way," the soldier directed us, clearing a spot for the next group to teleport in. Uncle Shade once told me that they used psychic type Pokemon in conjunction with some fancy technology to be able to carry around personal teleporters instead of having to equip every person with a Pokemon that could teleport. They had to be set up ahead of time, but are incredibly handy for anything involving extraction.
I saw a group of Lucario and Riolu appear on one of the pads and they were quickly moved, some on stretchers, to different areas. It didn't surprise me that my parents weren't the only aura-using Pokemon taken by Team Phoenix.
I saw smoke rising some distance away, roughly half a mile, as well as the sounds of gunshots from the area. It didn't take a scientist to realize that that was where the WPO was fighting Team Phoenix.
Several soldiers that approached us were diverted from our group when our guide told them, "VIPs."
"Very Impressive Pokemon," Luna joked, earning a small smile from Andrea and myself.
The lady led us into an impressively large tent with the Pokemon Ranger insignia right next to the WPO icon situated all over its surface. She made her way to this large table with holographic images covering its surface. People sat around it, wearing headsets and delivering reports to the higher-ups that barked instructions now and again.
Rick saw us as we approached and met us halfway.
"Bringing these VIPs here as ordered," the woman declared before being dismissed by Rick. We gave her a thankful nod as she left.
"Greene! The leader was just located!" a woman wearing a headset shouted over to Rick, who quickly told us to sit tight before ordering her to bring up the feed.
The table, most of it, was replaced with a live feed of a man in a gray business suit who was running towards an exit along with two other people.
"Take out-" Rick began.
Shots rang out from the speakers after one of the two men gripped the leader and used him as an unwilling human shield. I flinched and was glad when I saw Andrea do the same out of the corner of my eye. However much crazy the girl had, she at least didn't enjoy seeing people die.
Could do without her temporary insanity around firearms, though.
"Target down! Moving in to confirm kill," the person the helmet camera was attached to declared, moving forward and catching one of the men that had been with the leader with a stream of bullets.
The sight of Daniel running through the doorway after the fleeing man brought me some relief as well as confusion. I was happy that he, and Leon, were safe. But why was he chasing after that last guy?
"That was Daniel," I told Rick, who gave the instructions for a small team to go after the man that was charged with protecting us.
The next few minutes went by with Rick barking out instructions all over the place before ordering a platoon of soldiers, about twenty, to teleport us to the selected hospital and keep us all safe.
Some soldiers went ahead of us and we met them in the hospital, where we set my two parents on some hospital stretchers and I argued with the doctors.
"I have just located my family after they were taken from me. The only way you are getting me out of the same room as them is by using a tranquilizer on me."
The doctor that tried to bar my path gave up in the face of my stubbornness and allowed us, Luna, Andrea, and myself, to stay in the room as they hooked up all sorts of machines to them. Technical terms flew over my head, but I understood what they said at the end.
"Given sufficient rest and a constant supply of nutrients and liquid, they will recover from their ordeal," a nurse told us, locking us with a stern eye for the next statement. "You three will stay in this room and will not bother those two until they wake up on their own. Is that clear?"
We nodded, a bit surprised at the severity that the man in scrubs could bear against us. I understood the phrase, "Do not piss off the white mage," very well after meeting him.
I was a fool. A sentimental, wasteful, fool. I had my knife out, ready to run forward and take care of the problem that plagued me for so long.
I didn't call back to the Riolu. To do so would give away my location in the haze that I could barely see through.
That man moved through the haze, carefully moving into the spot I had been before the ceiling caved in. I frowned when I saw that he still held his pistol. If my memory was correct, he still had around six bullets remaining in the magazine from our previous fight. I hadn't heard him reload, but I hadn't been listening carefully either. This needed to be ended quickly.
I was about to move forward, fully prepared to take the risk of getting shot in order to perform a finishing, or at the very least incapacitating, blow, when a smaller shape moved away from the doorway.
In my peripherals, I saw the figure of my target raise its arm.
I wasted a perfectly good chance to move in and kill him because I found myself diving in front of Leon.
It wasn't a conscious decision. I did not think about it, nor contemplate the consequences before doing what I did.
If anyone ever called me sentimental, then I couldn't deny them that. I couldn't allow my partner-I couldn't allow Leon to die. Not like that. Not like Julius.
When the agonizing pain from the gunshots had the still-hazy figure fade to black, I was certain that I wouldn't see anything else ever again. Whatever could be said about the man, Gregory Bogard was thorough in taking care of problems.
Imagine my surprise when I woke up in the hospital. My waking was slow, very unlike how I normally woke. A squeeze of my hands told me that I was unarmed. I felt the numbness that painkillers brought clouding my mind, so I forced myself to concentrate despite the difficulty before I opened my eyes.
It was a normal enough hospital room and I found that nothing was immediately amiss, aside from the fact that I couldn't feel anything below my hips. I associated that with the drugs.
I noticed that a table to my right held six familiar pokeballs.
There were three missing.
With this observation in mind, I turned my head to the left at the sound of the breathing. Leon was curled up in the chair, asleep. That told me where one of the pokeballs were.
I eyed the call button near my bed for a moment, but judged that my mind was too unsteady from the drugs in my system to take the risk of speaking to a possible unknown. I didn't know what the situation was and couldn't risk acting without more information. Leon was the only one who wouldn't take advantage of my drugged state to sugar-coat my inquiries. I just didn't see him delivering a lie to me when I asked him a direct question.
I was spared the effort of figuring out a way to wake him up when the noise from something outside the room jolted him awake. He rubbed his eyes and yawned before looking over at me and jumping when he saw that I was also awake.
"I'll go get-"
"Stand fast," I stopped him before he reached the door. "I have some questions."
Leon hesitated for a moment before coming to the left side of my bed and moving the chair closer. He climbed back into it and waited, rubbing his fingers together nervously.
"Where are the two missing members of my team?" The team was my first priority. It seemed as though I had been unconscious for some time and, if they were injured, my team would have already recovered to some degree by now. Medical technology was able to help Pokemon recover at an incredibly fast rate, but humans are not so fortunate. Leon didn't have any lingering evidence that he was grazed by that bullet.
"Leon, where are Meganium and Honchkrow?" I asked, after he did not answer and did not meet my eyes.
"Both of them died," Leon finally said. "The day of the battle. Meganium was taken down by a battalion of fire types before she could take out the last seven. They said that she was responsible for over thirty percent of the enemies casualties. Honchkrow kept the attention of most of the aerial enemies for a majority of the battle."
I closed my eyes and mourned both of them. I had known Honchkrow for longer, yet I felt their deaths both very keenly.
Honchkrow never liked killing others and I hoped that he did not die with too many regrets weighing down his conscious. He was a good old Pokemon, the best kind to work with and the team, as well as the world, would be so much less happy with him gone.
Meganium was born to fight. To wade in the midst of opponents and pound each and every one of them down into the ground. She did not go gentle into that good night.
"What was done with their remains?" I asked, not opening my eyes just yet. I was thinking of our times together, allowing myself to remember and mourn like I had never allowed with Julius.
"Honchkrow is waiting in a stasis unit. The hospital staff has to wait for your decision on what to do with him. Meganium's remains are with Honchkrow, in an urn. The fire types cremated almost everything and they gathered what they could."
I smiled at the thought and murmured, "That's what she would have wanted. She always hated the idea of being stuck in the ground. Honchkrow as well."
Leon was respectfully silent as I spent a few minutes accepting my comrade's deaths. I set aside my grief and asked, "What of my father?"
I knew that Leon knew that Gregory was my father. And, seeing as both Leon and myself were alive, something had prevented the man from cleaning up his loose ends.
I clenched the bedsheets hard enough to make my knuckles creak.
"Did you see it happen? Were you right there?" I demanded, my mind forcibly cleared and waiting on his answer. If I had a heartbeat monitor attached, it would have shown my blood pressure spiking.
"H-he fell off of the edge!"
"Edge?" I questioned in a demanding tone. We had been in a building, on the third or so floor, if my memory was correct.
Leon told me what happened. An attack from the nearby fighting destroyed the area behind Gregory, creating the 'edge' that Leon mentioned.
"He was looking away from me and it seemed like a really good chance. I hit him with a force palm and saw it when he hit the ground."
I wanted to ask more details about what he saw, to be certain that he was well and truly dead. But his body language told me that he was feeling guilt, or something close to it, at causing the death of another. Even if he was a wild Pokemon, he seemed like one to run or knock out rather than kill.
"What did they do with his remains?" I allowed. I had to know that much. I needed to see proof before I accepted anything.
Leon told me that the WPO had gathered all of the deceased members of the recently exterminated Team Phoenix and were taking their time in identifying all the bodies.
"How did I get here?" I knew that Riolu were strong for their size, but there was no way that he could drag me very far.
"I let out Swampert. He was worried about the floor not being able to hold him. That's why he didn't come out if his pokeball earlier. He carried you to the medics and they brought us here."
"Well done," I complemented him. "You did the right thing."
I did not specify what he did correctly. I believed that his pushing Gregory over the edge was the best thing he could have ever done, but I didn't want to have him continue thinking about his actions as they truly seemed to bother him.
Leon's smile at the praise had me thinking of Julius when he grinned. I'm not sure if it was because of the drugs, but I did not flinch away from the thoughts of my old partner.
"Thank you for telling me all of this. Please go get the doctor."
Leon hopped down and ran off to get whoever he was wanted to get before. I inhaled deeply and allowed my mask to slip. I had done what I had wanted to do for so long, but also lost two long-time friends and comrades at the same time.
"Sorry that it took so long, but I finally avenged you, old friend," I whispered in the empty air.
Five days have passed since my parents were admitted to the hospital. They woke up at different times the morning of the second day. I was woken up by my dad's voice in my head.
"I'm still debating whether to ground you or not," he said once I woke up fully and he had captured my attention.
I snorted mentally and was sure not to move as both Luna and Andrea were leaning against me as they slept. I was kept warm between those two, though I could have done without Luna's drool. Ugh, I was going to have to wash that spot thoroughly.
"Blame Celebi. He said that he didn't want to lose his bet," I declared, throwing the Legendary under the metaphorical bus without any remorse.
He gave me an appraising look before he said, "I have no idea what they are talking about. I don't think that I've ever met Celebi."
"Time travel is complicated," I muttered, to which he nodded.
He fell back asleep soon after and the officials only began interrogating all of us after my mother woke up on her own.
They had tried to come before she had regained consciousness. An Aura Stone transformed into a sword and pointed at them while I mentally snarled to quiet down ensured that they wouldn't be back for awhile. At least, not until my mother had woken up naturally. The rest of the room had eyed me after that but did not make any mention of the incident afterwards.
Oddly enough, the hospital staff eyed me warily after that event. Word spread quickly, evidently.
Lucy found us on the second day and told me that we were square in regards to the Favor. She ignored my mental cheers and ecstatic tears of joy to sit next to my mother's bed.
I'm not joking when I say that I was weeping tears of happiness and Andrea was looking at a laughing Luna for an explanation that never appeared.
Despite the doctor's orders, my parents were out of their beds and rolling about in wheelchairs on the third day and walking by the fourth, much to the chagrin of the hospital staff. The doctors demanded that they have IVs in at all times, but those of us that could sense aura knew that they were almost totally back to full health.
Once everything began to calm down somewhat, meaning that they were released from the hospital, my dad insisted that everyone head on home and that he would take care of explanations.
It was painful telling my father that our house was gone. He couldn't quite hide his dismay at the news, but quickly hid it as well as he could. Since we couldn't exactly go home, my parents had Uncle Shade get us a room in a nearby hotel.
We had to stay under guard and not go anywhere without letting them know, but at least we got to sleep in some real beds. It felt weird sleeping in a bed without someone close by, but I was not about to get caught in bed with my girlfriend with so many adult figures around. Daniel didn't count in my mind. I doubted that he truly cared.
After the first incident with reporters, which took place at an ill-picked cafè, we traveled between the hotel and hospital solely via teleportation or while accompanied by Uncle Shade.
The fifth day was when Uncle Shade led us to the Daniel's room and that was when we found out that he had been injured. We had asked and made sure that Leon was alright, so we had assumed that Daniel was okay. Daniel was the elite soldier. If Leon managed to avoid getting hurt, then Daniel must be alright. That's what we had been thinking.
Seeing him in a bed, obviously having suffered grevious injury, told us just how wrong our preconceptions had been.
Uncle Shade left us with Daniel to go get the WPO officials that would ask us questions. Two guards stood at attention outside of the door, only moving to track possible threats with their eyes or when we went to a new location.
"What happened?" I asked Daniel once Uncle Shade left.
Daniel's eyes were as stoic as ever as he told us how his legs were shot, both literally and metaphorically, and that it was doubtful that he would be able to continue functioning as an agent of the WPO. We had winced and were unable to respond. We didn't know how to without sounding like we were pitying him. We knew that he would not have appreciated that.
Thankfully, Ninetales inquired about my parents and the topic changed long enough for the two men in suits to arrive and begin asking questions.
More chairs were brought in so that the two men were able to face towards the rest of us, with the exception of Uncle Shade, who stood next to the closed door with an unreadable expression. My parents had him promise to step in if the questions got out of hand.
"Let's start from the beginning, why don't we," a balding fellow with a briefcase full of files suggested. "Tell us what happened from the point that you were forced to leave your home up until now."
I began, Andrea supplying the small details that I forgot or left out. Luna joined in when we reached the part of us getting to the Sanctuary. We told them about the time we spent traveling, not going into too much detail about everything and bringing up only the pertinent points.
I gave a short demonstration, turning it into a few different shapes, when the Aura Stone came up.
We hit a wall when we got to the point where we began time traveling. Daniel spoke up at that point.
"There are details that they are not privy to. The Legendary Pokemon, Celebi, informed me of events that made it so that the only choice was to go on a retrieval mission."
"What would have happened?" the balding man questioned, surprisingly accepting of the time travel business. When the bosses believed even the crazy stuff with little hesitation, then you knew that they had a high level of trust in him.
"A complete collapse of the WPO as well as the usage of aura-based weaponry that changed the maps." Daniel's eyes flicked over to us for a moment before he finished, "More details will be provided at a later time."
Both the officials took a moment to contemplate his words, looking at the Pokemon of the room for a moment before urging us to continue. We took a moment longer digesting his words, wondering what all caused the collapse of an organization responsible for keeping the world running smoothly.
We finished telling them what we knew, starting up again at after we were dropped back into the timeline by Celebi, and they left, bringing Uncle Shade with them.
"Where are Meganium and Honchkrow?" Luna asked, pointing towards the pokeballs that were sitting on the table next to Daniel. She had evidently already probed each one and figured out which two were missing.
"Both perished during the battle," Daniel answered, the skin around his eyes drawing back and his jaw tensing at his words. The emotion coming off of him was close to what he had given off when he first laid eyes on Leon and those of us who could sense emotion, that's to say basically everyone there, flinched at his reaction.
The nurses kicked us out of the room a little after that was said to give Daniel some medication or something. I was almost thankful for the fact as I didn't know how to react to their deaths in any way that Daniel, or the two of them themselves, would have appreciated.
We brought Leon along with us and Luna carried him on her shoulder.
Quietly, we wandered around the park next to the hospital, our guards staying a short distance away, until Luna asked Leon, "So where is your pokeball?"
My parents told me that they had put our pokeballs in a secure location, but didn't know what happened to Leon's.
"It's here," he reached under his armband and, sure enough, the shrunken pokeball was nestled in between the Aura Stone and his fur.
"Make sure that you don't lose it," Andrea warned him.
"Don't worry, I won't," Leon said, smiling reassuringly and pushing his armband back down.
"Hey, look! Oran berries!" Luna said excitedly, towards the plant with the blue consumable hanging off of it.
She raced over to it and began munching down. I didn't bother mentioning that we only had lunch an hour ago, knowing the bottomless pit that Luna could be.
Before I could move forward to join Luna and Leon in eating, though not in such excess, Andrea tugged on my arm. She connected with me, leaving out Luna and Leon. Seeing as she appeared to do it purposely, I did not pull them into the conversation.
"I've been meaning to talk with you about something."
I turned fully towards her, then asked, "About?"
"Do you think that your dad is really going to be able to find a way to turn us back?"
We had discussed the topic with my parents and my father was working on figuring out a way for us to change back into humans whenever he wasn't busy with anything else. He hadn't made any progress, but promised to let us know as soon as he did.
"If anyone can, I think the guy who turned back human from a Lucario once before would be the one with the best chance," I answered with a grin. My dad really was the one with the best possibility of figuring things out.
"But what are we supposed to do if he can't figure out a solution?"
I bit down the quip I had coming about us getting a spot in a circus when I saw her very real worry.
"Regardless of what happens, I don't see very much being different than if we were human," I said with a casual shrug.
"What?" Andrea said, giving me a confused look.
"What I mean is that, aside from the fur and body structure, just what all are we missing out as humans? We can speak english and, even if we couldn't, we can communicate via aura. You know how common Pokemon having jobs are nowadays and we would have our pick of professions with how much stronger these bodies are than our regular ones. So, again, what would we be missing?"
"A couple fingers and the ability to not burn alive during the summer?" Andrea supplied, smiling as she spoke.
"You've got me there," I said with a shrug. Midway through the motion, I felt my arm vibrate and plucked the phone that Uncle Shade had supplied me with from the spot that I had made in my Aura Stone. I had considered carrying around a backpack, or small satchel even, but found using my Aura Stone to be much easier.
"Hello?" I didn't recognize the number, but that was due to the fact that both my parents had yet to get new phones and they just borrowed a guard's any time that they needed to contact us.
"It's already begun," my father's voice, grim as can be, came as a response.
I frowned with worry.
"What's begun? What's going on?" Leon and Luna both noticed my rising tone and moved over to us, leaning in to hear the conversation more easily.
"The movie producers. They've caught wind of you guys. Arceus help us all."
I was sitting in the park, relaxing after school with some poffins that I had begged off of my friend, who had a steel type Pokemon partner. Was using my puppy-dog eyes to manipulate my friends to get sweets wrong? Probably. Was I going to stop? Not a chance.
"Aren't you that guy who's going to be the character in the upcoming sequel to Curse of the Lucario?" A girl walking by the bench that I sat at asked, stopping in front of me.
It had been almost seven months since our return. Team Phoenix was well and truly gone and those of us that had to go back had gone back to school. The catch-up work was a pain, but we slipped right back on schedule with our classmates with little trouble. We had given some reporters interviews, per my father's suggestions, so they had stopped stalking us. A lot of people recognized us and we were glad when they stopped staring so much after three months. Now and again, like that moment, someone would recognize me (or more likely my Aura Stone) and say hello or ask for an autograph or something like that.
(School had been a bit weird, but calmed down rather quickly.)
"I'm only in a few of those scenes, honestly," I said, truthfully.
The same producers that made the movie about my dad had leapt into making the sequel and were supposed to have the movie completed sometime soon with the release close after that.
The producer offered to let us be around when our actors were acting out parts that had to do with us, which was most of the movie, but Andrea and Luna flat out refused. Andrea because she was blushing heavily and the idea of being a main character in a movie flustered her, even after all this time. Luna said no because she didn't want anything spoiled for her. I accepted and, after seeing the pitiful special effects that tried to emulate the Aura Stone, requested that I could lend my Aura Stone to the Lucario that was playing me.
After the director used the power of coercion, I was acting out several fight scenes with my Aura Stone and somehow did a pretty good job, if I say so myself. The Lucario who was acting me did a far better job everywhere else, however
The WPO had told us that we were not allowed to discuss certain aspects of what went on during our time on the run, so the movie itself was kind of inaccurate. Awesome as all out, if what I saw was any indication, though.
"Mind if I get a picture of you with your, ah?"
"Aura Stone?" I supplied.
I set my poffins aside and let the girl take her picture. I even transformed the Aura Stone into a sword, the same kind that I knew was shown in the trailer, and several other people came over and it turned into an impromptu photo shoot when I was too polite to say no.
I was a sucker when the little kids started begging.
I was able to finally escape when I received a text from my dad and begged off, telling them that I needed to head home. It's a good thing I did, as I saw a few trainers headed my way. Most of the time, trainers wanted photos with their entire team in them. Took forever to set up and I was usually squished between several bodies.
We had bought a new home, our old one far too gone to even consider repairing or rebuilding. It still stung whenever I went by there and saw the cleared lot, the debris having been sorted through and cleared away at some point. Our new house, which I was still getting used to, wasn't too different from our old one. It was also, just barely, close enough to Andrea's house that I was able to connect to her if we both stood in just the right places or I sent out the Aura Stone to act as a signal receiver.
I was about five minutes away from my house when my dad called me.
"Are you almost here?"
"Yeah. What's up?" His excited tone had me curious.
"Just hurry up. Oh, and call Andrea and tell her to come over."
My heart jumped and I asked, "Did you figure something out?" That was the only reason I could think for my dad's sudden excitement and request to bring my girlfriend.
Well, there was also the possibility of him throwing a celebration for one reason or another, but that was unlikely with how busy he has been.
"Now that would be spoiling the surprise, wouldn't it?" He hung up after that and I wasted no time in calling Andrea and telling her that my dad had figured something out and wanted us at my house ASAP.
Andrea pulled into the driveway right as I walked into the yard and we met at the door.
I pushed the door open and rushed to the living room, having sensed my parent's and Lucy being in there. Andrea groaned loudly when she saw that my both my parents were as blue-furred as ever, if grinning widely. The thing that stopped me from doing the same was the clothes that my dad was wearing. It was an unspoken decision that clothes were totally optional, an option that none of us had taken up until just then.
"Did you figure anything out?" I asked.
My dad grinned even wider before raising the arm he had kept hidden behind the couch.
The fur-less arm with five human fingers and normal skin. The arm-hair had the slightest tinge of blue, but that was it. From the shoulder down, his arm was as human as it was supposed to be.
"I've only managed a limb at a time, but I thought you might want to know," he said, his tone just a tad smug, though strained.
"How'd you-are you okay?" He had begun to frown and thick, gelatinous aura began to form around his arm. His fingers fused back together, the spike rose from the back of his paw, and the appendage sprouted fur until his arm was once again that of a Lucario. The remaining aura sank back into his skin with no other reaction.
He clinched his paw with a pained expression.
"Twenty-four minutes makes that the new record. It does hurt a little, and takes a lot of concentration, but I can show you how to do it."
"Lets get to it!" Andrea exclaimed, stepping forward with determination etched onto her face.
My dad's mouth quirked up with a grin as he said, "First step: go get some clothes on."
There was an awkward pause where we all considered the reason behind that and Andrea quickly left and returned with some clothes. We couldn't look one another's eyes when we began practicing, much to Lucy's amusement.
I did as my dad told me and isolated the transformative aura. Yes, transformative aura. It took my dad and Pip weeks to figure out that there was a small percentage of our aura that was not normal.
(Narri had been largely useless throughout this time, far too focused on keeping every single male in the village away from Luna. She spent more time over at my place than at her own home until their mating season was over. It only took her a few nights to get the hang of sleepwalking throughout the new house and I carried her back to her own bed on more than one occasion.)
It was easy for my dad to find what he needed, having spent years messing with aura. The same for Andrea and my mom, but that's because they had a smaller-than-normal reserves of aura. I, on the other hand, was not as lucky as any of them. My reserves were massive and that small amount of transformative aura seemed even more diminutive when I had to dig throughout all the rest to locate it. It was akin to trying to locate a drop of oil in a lake.
When I did manage to find it, however, I had much better results than the rest of them. I first managed to transform when I was alone in my room, meditating to find the elusive type of aura. I was glad that I was in a private setting, because I hadn't gotten clothed due to me thinking that I wasn't going to manage it completely on my first try.
The process was pretty simple. Once I got past that first step of finding that special aura, I just gathered a bit of it and began to feed it normal aura to build it up. Once I thought I had built it up enough, I introduced it into my system and fed the 'battery' that I set up a steady supply of aura to keep up my human form.
While the three of them all managed to transform fully long before I managed to get it down, I was able to hold the form for ages longer than any of them.
I remember when I went downstairs the morning after I finally figured out the trick to it. I walked in to see my dad transforming his right arm and my mom hadn't bothered to change form, her tail waving lazily behind her as she prepared breakfast. An apron prevented anything from dirtying her fur.
"I've been running this for half an hour already," I boasted when I walked in the kitchen in my human form, grinning up a storm.
My parents congratulated me and I managed to keep up the form for another hour and a half until Lucy tripped me and broke my concentration, causing me to scratch up the floor with my chest spike when I slammed to the floor, the reverse transformation over in a moment.
"I hate you," I growled to her from my position on the ground, recovering from the severe ache that accompanied the sudden transformation coupled with the fall.
"Why is he still here?" That's the question that I continued to ask myself throughout the physical therapy and afterwards, when I was staying in a decently sized apartment.
I had taken the first opportunity after I was cleared from the hospital, to travel to a specific hilltop that doubled as a cliff. It was halfway across the world, so I called in some favors to have a Psychic type bring myself, my team, and Leon to the bottom of that hill. It took me a long time to climb up it, the cane helping more than I would like to admit.
Finally, I got to the top of the hill and rested against the sakura tree. Staraptor was waiting patiently for me on a low branch, the remains I had come to spread held securely in the straps that fit across his back.
I wanted to carry them myself, but knew that it was going to be nearly impossible to do so easily with the cane taking up one of my hands.
"About time. You were about to miss it," Staraptor said without any heat to his words. He was referring to the sunset, which was beginning just as I arrived at the top. I let out the rest of the team, the exception being Leon, who had made the climb with me.
I grunted at his words, accepting Meganium first. I knew that she would complain if I didn't let her go first. I knew that Honchkrow wouldn't have minded.
I unscrewed the urn and walked to the edge before waiting a minute. The gentle wind that had been carrying sakura petals to the expanse below picked up and I used that opportunity to turn the urn and send the remains off. Meganium probably would have bellowed in protest at her remains being sent off with flowers, the wind having picked up a large amount of them along with Meganium.
I set aside the emptied urn and accepted Honchkrow's. Unlike with Meganium, who hated the speeches that came along with funerals, I said a few words before sending Honchkrow with the next harsh wind.
"You were a good partner and I thank you for everything you did. It's finally time to sleep."
Leon must not have missed the wistful, almost jealous, tinge to those last words because he did not join most of the team in heading back down the hill to the psychic type that waited below. Ninetales stayed behind as well, though only long enough for her to send a flamethrower out towards the Team Styx jacket that I threw out into the air. It was reduced to ashes and the final painful reminder of my past drifted down.
I looked out, following the ashes' path, and found the expanse laying below inviting.
It was something that I had been thinking about. Thinking about quite often, actually. I had achieved my purpose in life and was unable to continue working for the WPO, so what could I really do? What was I supposed to do? I had no children, nor any living family to speak of. It was annoying to admit, but I was getting too old to rejoin the work force. I knew that I needed to make sure that my team was taken care of before doing-
"Uh, Daniel? Our ride is getting impatient," Leon's hesitant voice came up and I broke out of my musings.
And then there was Leon, who I had not included in my thoughts with my team. I'm not sure why, considering that he had bonded to them quickly and stayed in close proximity to me at all times, like my team. What could I do for Leon? From what I understood, he really didn't have any place to go back to. He also didn't seem like a Pokemon that enjoyed being wild. With him having his coloration, I understood why.
I took a moment to look back down. Perhaps it was because the sun no longer lit the area below, but it no longer felt inviting.
"I'm coming." It only occurred to me later that the reason behind this was because I still had things to do.
I wasn't done yet.
Two years after Team Phoenix was exterminated and I was enjoying college life as well as the intrigue that came with being a partial movie star. The movie, given the name The Return of the Cursed Gift, had done even better than the first and I actually had to escape to my human form to avoid being noticed as much. It didn't work very well, considering that every hair on my body was tinged with blue. You had to be close to notice it, thankfully.
The same went for my parents and Andrea. My mom's hair, oddly enough, stayed as fully blonde as it was before she transformed. We also learned that she could manipulate her hair to a certain extent and oftentimes wore it in a ponytail to 'make it easier to keep straight,' according to her. I hadn't asked, nor tested it out, but I had my suspicions that she still had the ability to curse people with her tail, even if it was just a ponytail.
It was a terrifying thought, honestly.
For Andrea, her own hair was tinged with blue and her pupils were also red. It wouldn't surprise me if people assumed that we were all family with how similar our looks were to one another.
I was surprised when I first saw that Andrea's hair had the tinges of blue, but my dad explained that it was the transformative aura's doing. She still had golden fur when she was a Lucario, but her hair continued to hold the brushes of blue. None of us ever found out a way to fully rid ourselves of the blue coloration, nor our red pupils.
If we had managed it, then I doubt that Daniel would have been able to recognize us when we went to visit him.
I was walking down the street of the city I had decided to settle down in. It wasn't a large city, but had everything I knew I would want within walking distance while not being overly crowded like cities tended to feel like.
I was returning from turning in the paperwork to purchase a building that I noticed was for sale a few days prior. Leon, as a random question, had asked me what I planned to do after retiring (not by choice) from the WPO.
My first answer was no longer an option, so I spent a few silent minutes considering what I knew how to do and what I would actually enjoy doing.
While it was stained by the memory of Gregory, there was one job that I had before being forced to join Team Styx.
"I'm going to open a bakery," I declared. Leon stared at me for a few moments longer than I thought necessary, probably wondering if I was joking or not.
I wasn't, for the record.
I had researched available properties around the city and found that the one Leon had pointed out had the specifications of what I would need. I purchased the property and filled out the needed paperwork to open a food-selling business and was on my way back home when I heard the sounds of weak crying coming from an alleyway.
My steps faltered as I turned towards the noise. There was no accompanying shushing of a mother quieting down the baby and I found myself walking into the alleyway.
"Hello?" I called out, ears listening carefully for the sound of anybody else possibly hiding. I knew that I was retired, but I had made enemies in my lifetime. This was a good ambush location, being enclosed and narrow as it was. The only weapons I had on me was my trusty pistol and a single knife, both concealed. I had left my team back at the apartment so that they could begin packing up everything in preparation of moving into the living quarters above the soon-to-be bakery.
Despite my brain telling me that this was more than likely a trap, my instincts pushed me forward until I stood next to a dumpster.
I picked the lid up, praying that what I was hearing was a thrown away doll or something like that.
When I looked in to see a baby half buried in refuge, the lid I held groaned under the pressure of my grip, anger filling my form. Even as rage rose, my arm carefully held the baby as I pulled him from the dumpster and walked out from that stinking alleyway.
"Is that it?" I asked, pulling into the small parking lot a moment after they confirmed that we were at the right place.
I checked once more that the 'batteries' that kept myself in my human form were stocked and stable before leaving the vehicle. Jacob had come up with the idea and Andrea had innovated it by figuring out how to create multiple sources to be drained before the transformation reversed. I had kept my human form for a good three weeks straight and didn't want to quit just yet.
I had a small smile as I watched the three of them walking towards the business with various goodies lining the windows. For being unable to utilize their aura for most of their lives, Andrea and Jacob were both surprisingly inventive when it came to coming up with ideas involving the energy. Luna called them both dorks when they got excited over learning something new, though her words were without heat when she said them. We could all tell that she enjoyed learning whatever they came up with, even if she tried to hide it sometimes.
Jacob had told me that the man that had been protecting them was forced to retire after getting injured in the battle against Team Phoenix. I tried to thank visit him in the hospital, but was kept busy so much that it slipped my mind by the time we were finally released.
"Luna, hang back with dad. I want to see if he actually recognizes us," Jacob told the only one of us who was a Lucario at that time. Andrea was able to keep her human form for almost the same amount of time as myself because of how naturally skilled she was with her aura. Jacob? His supply seemed limitless sometimes and he just had to concentrate a little to keep his human form.
My wife, unfortunately, did not have Jacob's supply, Andrea's natural skill, nor my years of experience. She was the one who spent the most amount of time in her Pokemon form, though she didn't mind it too much. She admitted that she preferred having the real tail rather than substituting it with her ponytail.
I would never admit it, out loud or via aura, but sometimes I was jealous of how much more attention she paid to that flexible appendage rather than me.
Hehe...that was a joke...mostly. Arceus I needed to get her away from Lucy before she corrupted her further.
I walked more slowly and let Jacob and Andrea, both doing a terrible job at keeping their faces clear of their grins, enter the shop ahead of Luna and myself.
"Welc-" a Riolu with an armband began to say, cutting himself off with recognition lighting his features. Jacob either quickly told him to act natural, or did some gesture to keep his silence because the Riolu's speak barely changed as he completed the greeting.
"-ome to the Limping Doughboy."
Andrea nodded politely and moved with Jacob to the counter where an older fellow sat, handing a woman a bag with a polite, "Please come again," sending them on their way before he turned his attention to my son and future daughter-in-law.
What? It was only a matter of time. I knew that those two were meant for one another.
"Good afternoon, Jacob and Andrea. What will you be having?"
I began chuckling at their reactions, their auras telling me everything I needed to know.
"H-how?" Jacob questioned with disappointment clear in his voice.
"You are forty-two years too late if you think I will forget someone if they just change species."
Silence reigned and I am certain that I was not the only one who was curious as to what happened forty-two years prior. This guy was definitely at least in his mid to late-fifties. So what exactly-
"Anyways," Andrea said, interrupting everyone's internal musings. "Leon called and told us that you recently opened this place, so we thought we would come visit. See how you are doing."
Daniel, as his name tag attested, gave the approaching Riolu a look that I couldn't quite identify. There was definitely some fond annoyance in his aura, much like when Lucy and Jacob would pull pranks on one another, but it was obvious that he tried to not openly show it on his face.
His annoyance, however, won out when the Riolu hopped up on the glass counter and sat next to where Jacob and Andrea stood.
"Geddoff of there! I've told you, already, that counter is for customer cash, not Riolu rump!"
I couldn't hold back my chuckle at his, obviously lighthearted, bickering and the attention was drawn to me.
"I never got to thank you for watching my son and his friends," I said with a respectful nod to the man.
Either he recognized me or connected the dots quickly because he simply nodded back and was drawn back into the conversation with Jacob and Andrea. They had told me that Daniel wasn't one for empty talk, so I didn't mind his curt dismissal. It was pleasant, to be honest. So many people recognized me and saw only a character in the movie or that guy who managed to figure out how to transform into a Pokemon. It was nice to be treated normally.
I decided to sit and wait, as it seemed like they would be talking for awhile. I noticed a Luxray carrying a giggling child around the place. A female Houndoom rested in the corner, watching the Luxray with barely hidden fondness. Her aura felt noticeably wary, yet noticeably softened while she watched the Luxray playing.
I was about to look elsewhere, not going to be caught staring, when I felt a subtle twinge from her aura. An alien presence barely made itself known before fading once more and I noticed the small bulge in her belly.
The dots connected and I briefly wondered if the pups would be Shinx, Houndour, or a mixture of the two. Those happened, though rarely.
"You want anything, Dad?"
Jacob caught my attention and I smiled before mentioning that I had been craving the chocolate-covered pastry in the window.
Daniel had Leon slip through the door into the kitchen with our order while the rest of them joined me at the table.
I interrupted their conversation to tell them, "If you go talk to the Houndoom over there, be sure to use no aura in her vicinity. It can do very strange things to unborn babies."
They looked over to the Houndoom as one and left me to go give her congratulations.
"Don't forget, you both owe me a box of poffins, each. I told you that they would get together after the mission was over," Luna said, smirking at their grimaces and ignoring the Luxray and Houndoom's indignant responses.
"I'll just set this here, Leon declared, placing a platter with several delectable goodies on the table and taking a seat with a sigh.
"Been busy?" I asked him, holding out on my treat a little longer to instead speak to the kid.
"Yes sir. We only opened up a few weeks ago and we're seeing more customers every day. How are those three doing?"
"They are doing well. Definitely better than I was when I was their age." I had a small smile at the memories of me dodging reporters, then grimaced when I thought of one who had climbed through a window to speak to me. I had to replace it when he was sent sailing out of it the opposite way via the explosive force of a half-formed aura sphere.
Once we had given our congratulations to the canine couple, we convened with my dad back at our table and feasted upon the delicious goodness that chocolate had become to our senses.
I mean, chocolate was always good and I had already enjoyed a good chocolate bar or chocolate cake or something, but that all changed after I had first transformed.
I finally understood my father's warning to never bring the sugary goodness anywhere near Lucario because it was basically catnip. I had to resist transforming back into a Lucario so as to get the full taste sensory range.
I almost ignored the sound of a crying baby if I didn't notice both Daniel and Leon react to the sound at the same time. Curiosity piqued, I extended my senses and found that Leon was heading through a door to calm down an infant who had been quiet until that point.
"What are you-" Luna began to ask at my surprised look, but instead took a look for herself. Andrea and my dad checked and I was the one who voiced everyone's question.
"Daniel, how long have you had a kid?"
Not gonna lie, this was a hard chapter to not because I had so little time to dedicate to writing, though that was an issue. Not because I didn't know what I wanted in it. No, the reason this chapter was so difficult to write was because I knew it was the last. I highly encourage reviewing so I know your opinions about this ending. I can't hear those cheers echoing in your minds, so throw me a bone already!
Something that I've noticed is sorely lacking is fan art for this story. If anyone here is an artist, I would be honored to see some art of any scene in my stories. Just let me know where it is and I'll probably fanboy all over it for ages.
Anyways, yup. This is it. I've got a small idea for another story, one somewhat connected to this one. Let me know in the reviews if you would like me to be working on it!
And, without further ado, I, Talkingbirdguy, declare this the story's
Veni Vedi Vici